A sprawling complex of ancient cave temples on Elephanta Island, the Elephanta Caves is a treasure trove for history and architecture enthusiasts. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is perfect to escape the glitz and glamour of the city of Mumbai and enter into a land where life becomes unruffled.
This free-standing square cell features beautiful entrances on each side. The shrine houses a linga representing lord Shiva. This linga along with the emblem of Goddess Parvathi epitomizes the supreme unity within the temple.
Trimurti is known as the most significant sculpture of Elephanta. This ‘masterpiece of Gupta-Chalukyan art’ is positioned at the back of the cave. It features a three-headed image of Shiva rising at a height of 20 ft. The Gangadhara idol is situated on the right of Trimurthi. The idol shows Ganges River descending down from the heaven into the locks of Lord Shiva. The carving stands at a height of about 17 ft and makes many jaws drop with its majestic outlook.
The eastern part of the caves lets you access the 55 ft wide courtyard. The temple here houses a beautifully preserved wall painting. Close to the east corner, a circular podium in the courtyard is placed which is believed to be the seat of mount of Shiva, Nandi. The steps which lead to the temple-cave porch are adorned with winged tigers on both the corners. Five more steps guide you to central Linga-shrine having a 16 ft height and around 13 ft width.
Access the west wing through the main cave. This semi-ruined portion features a closed reservoir within the pillared cave. The west portion of the courtyard comprises a three-faced Brahma and Shiva meditating on a lotus. The most charming carving of the West Wing is of a third eyed Lord Shiva with six arms, adorned crown, a club in one hand and a cobra in other.
This sculpture has been placed in the northern end and is a unique lure for architecture buffs. It depicts a furious form of Shiva along with Goddess Parvati who looks terrified. The figure of Shiva standing 11.5 ft high has been ruined below the waist; however, it still preserves its majestic powers.
Travellers planning to visit Elephanta Caves need to visit the Gateway of India in Mumbai city. From here, they can buy ferry tickets from the Maharashtra tourism development corp to reach the Elephanta Island which usually takes one hour.
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